The story of Lazarus and the rich man is a warning about getting so caught up in our own ideas of success that we miss out on the real story of our lives. The rich man enjoyed fine food and clothing yet did not know mercy or the depths of God’s love in his own life. His wealth numbed him to the pain of others. His riches robbed him of the true story God called him to live.
The rich man thought he knew the end of his story. He thought he had arrived, had achieved success because he had wealth and ease, feasting to his heart’s content. It’s easy to imagine that he was regarded with esteem and respect—even admiration—because of his riches. The world around him would have told him he had made it to the top! But the rich man was lost. He was lost in his status, in his version of success, in others’ esteem. He was unable to see that real, abundant life eluded him. Only torment would make that plain.
I think about the many versions of success that can drive our lives: professional accomplishment and esteem from colleagues, financial comfort with a padded retirement fund and small luxuries, and approval from others for conforming to their values. Yet all these can prevent us from living the abundant story God invites us to live. These seductive versions of success make us think we have arrived. Yet they draw our gaze away from the Author of our lives, whose story is the only true one.
To be sure, riches are not inherently bad. But they are more likely to confuse than to clarify. Jesus warns us that it will be devastating to mistake riches for abundant life.
I wonder what versions of success distract me from abundant life? How do I confuse the two?
Reflect on any false versions of success that hold your gaze. Invite God to shed light on them.
While Jeremiah is in prison, God tells him to buy a field. This transaction shows that in the future, life will return to normal. It is an “enactment prophecy,” where a prophecy is given through actions instead of just words. The psalmist rejoices in the protection that God provides to the faithful. God is a fortress, a covering, and a shield. Paul admonishes his readers not to fall into materialism. The love of money, not money itself, is the root of all kinds of evil, and those obsessed with it build their hopes on shifting sands. Jesus tells a parable about a rich man who has fallen into that very trap. Only after death, when it is too late, does he realize his mistake.
Read Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15. How do you live as if God’s promises were already true?
Read Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16. How do you turn toward God with hope in times of darkness?
Read 1 Timothy 6:6-19. Whether you have few or many possessions, how do they get in the way of your following Jesus?
Read Luke 16:19-31. God knows each of us by name. Do you know the names of the persons in your community who have obvious or internal unmet needs?
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